Rivers support life and fuel civilization. They provide water for drinking, irrigate food crops, and help build everything from cars to computers. Their waters drive hydroelectric turbines that generate clean energy. Rivers have even supported nuclear physics developments that changed the course of a war: The hydroelectric complexes of the Columbia Basin Project and the Tennessee Valley Authority enabled energy-intensive uranium and plutonium refinement for the Manhattan Project.
Rivers have always been crucial transportation pathways. The exploration, settlement, and economic development of the Americas depended acutely on river navigation. The Danube serves as a trade route in Europe, much as it did for the Romans 2000 years ago, and today it carries commercial freight across the continent….